How to get a coronavirus test in Bogotá

By Oli Pritchard January 8, 2021

Looking for a COVID-19 test in Bogotá? All the info you need below, from prices and times to links and medical advice.

How to get a coronavirus test in Bogotá: Waiting for a test in Colcan sede Marly.
How to get a coronavirus test in Bogotá: Waiting for a test in the Marly branch of Colcan. Photo: Jared Wade

As COVID-19 shows no signs of going away, you may be wondering how to get a coronavirus test in Bogotá. The vaccine is still a long way away from reaching non-priority people, and cases are on the rise. Whether you need a PCR test for travel, have a nasty cold that you want to check out or have had contact with an infected person, here’s all the info you need for COVID-19 tests in Bogotá.

Read all our coverage on the coronavirus in Colombia

There are four basic options on the table. You can go to a private clinic, order a visit from a private healthcare provider, go to your EPS or visit one of the temporary drop-in tents set up by the state. We’re trying to give the pros and cons of each option and to keep this updated, but things are often open to change, so it’s worth checking with each provider to confirm prices and hours etc.

What the test involves

First of all, you need to think about whether you need to get tested at all. This might sound frivolous, but actually a lot of people don’t necessarily need to be tested and thus can avoid putting strain on the medical system. If you’re going abroad you may need to get tested, depending on country (and remember visitors from overseas need to take a test). If you’ve had contact with infected people it’s probably a good idea even if you don’t have symptoms. However, you can simply self-isolate for 14 days. The most common symptoms include: fever, dry cough, loss of taste and/or smell.

The second decision is whether you want to leave the house or not. You may find it hard to get around, or you may be worried about infecting others as you travel. EPS generally recommend house visits, private clinics will do so at a small cost. Waiting for a house visit reduces infection chances, but will increase overall time.

What is a PCR COVID test?

You need to think about what type of test you want to take, too. The two most common are PCR and antigen (antígeno), with antibody testing coming a distant third. Remember that false positives and false negatives are always possible so still exercise caution, especially if symptoms persist. Both the PCR and the antigen tests are up the nose with a swab, mildly uncomfortable but no worse than plucking a nose hair. Certainly nothing to be afraid of.

  • PCR is generally needed for travel and is a more accurate test, especially in the early stages. However, it’s more expensive and takes longer to return results.
  • The antigen test is quicker and not always as reliable. It’s generally only recommended if you have symptoms or seven days after you’ve had contact with someone who’s tested positive.
  • The antibody (anticuerpo) test is also an option, though much less useful for most people. This is a blood test that will tell you if you have had COVID previously, through checking your immune system’s response. It takes about one to three weeks for your body to develop antibodies after you’ve been infected. While of great use to research, this isn’t useful for most people.

Overall, there’s plenty to think about and you need to factor in time too. If you had contact or initial symptoms a week ago and you won’t get results for another week, you’re best off just self-isolating anyway. And remember, the vaccine might take a while, but it is coming.

How to get a coronavirus test in Bogotá? Here are your options.

Getting tested at private clinics

  • Pros: Possibly no appointment needed, relatively fast to get seen.
  • Cons: You have to travel to them, not cheap.

We recommend Colcan, especially the branch on Calle 49 between Caracas and 13. It’s the biggest branch and is open every day from 6am (7am Sundays). If you’re getting a test in order to travel, or if you think you are not infected, the Marly TransMilenio station is right next to it. Official turnaround times are 24 hours for the antigen and between 24 and 72 for PCR.

Experiences have varied – our editor received PCR results in 24 hours one time and four days the next for COP$220,000. Other contributors waited as long as 100 hours, but that was over the Christmas peak. Our sub-editor received antigen results within two hours for COP$100,000 in late November. Expect same-day antigen results if you go in the morning, one to three days for PCR, but it depends on numbers. Waiting times have varied between 20 and 90 mins. You will have to complete a questionnaire in Spanish. You can walk in off the street, or drive-thru appointments can be booked here.

Synlab Colombia handles the airport testing, which is superfast. They offer a guaranteed 24 hours for processing the PCR and just two hours for the antigen test. You can schedule a test here. However, it’s pricier – COP$150,000 for the antigen and COP$280,000 for PCR. Note that those fast processing times only apply to the airport branch.

Getting tested at home – Private home visits

  • Pros: Easy to book and no travel needed.
  • Cons: Not immediate, more expensive.

This is much more convenient, but you can’t easily pick a date or time. They come on the day that they are able to.* At-home testing is slightly more expensive than walking in off the street – around COP$250,000 for the test and COP$30,000 more for the delivery. Once the test is done and your nose is stinging a bit, the results come in similar times. 

Colcan also offers a delivery service in conjunction with Vitalea, at around COP$4,500 for delivery on top of the prices above. Synlab offer a domicilio delivery (315 3686 943) There are other options out there too via delivery services, but expect an extra charge depending on time location etc – we’ve seen anything from COP$245,000 to nearly COP$400,000 quoted.

Getting tested via EPS 

  • Pros: Possibly easy to organise, cheap or free, can get doctor’s note for work.
  • Cons: Possibly a long wait.

As all EPS are different, prices will vary, possibly dramatically. We know people who have used Sura and Colsanitas, which were similar. They couldn’t get attention at the medical centre, but you arrange a visit to the house. Sura sent someone later the same day, Colsanitas five days later. 

Ring or go to the website of your EPS and see what they say. It’s entirely possible that this may depend on your plan, your EPS provider and other factors such as location. The test was free for both our correspondents. Processing times seem to be slightly longer than the private clinics. You may need to be persistent – we’ve heard of EPS call centres trying to avoid booking appointments and claiming you should self-isolate instead.

Getting tested at mobile testing tents

  • Pros: Free, no appointment
  • Cons: Could be a long wait, hard to get to, slow processing

One of our writers did this early on, when demand was high. These are testing tents set up by the local government in conjunction with the ministry of health (MinSalud). You’ll need to check here to find out where they’ll be on a day by day basis. The processing times are given as 72 hours to six days, so expect a longer wait than other options. It is totally free though.

If you’re thinking about how to get a coronavirus test in Bogotá, you have a lot of options. And of course, if you’re experiencing serious symptoms, seek medical advice.

*We have taken endocrinolab out of the article, due to concerns over privacy.